November 25, 2023
How Laughter Helps us Traverse Life’s Bumpy Roads
“Humor is a means of obtaining pleasure in spite of the distressing effects that interface with it.”
Mark Twain said that “humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our harnesses yield, all our irritations, and resentments flit away, and a sunny
spirit takes their place.” He’s certainly not wrong. Humor may very well be the great thing.
Remarkable things can happen in the span of just a few seconds, when we’re able to find humor even if the most complicated situations, despite our pain, our fear and when we face – like all of us humans do – life’s tragedy. It reminds us that life is still a good thing.
What are the benefits of a sense of humor?
Better psychological and physical health
Having a sense of humor is not just about making life more enjoyable; it also appears to be a powerful ally for mental and physical health. A sense of humor acts as a boost to our immune system, protecting us against depression by reframing negative events in a humorous light. Individuals at risk for depression find that humor prevents the triggering of depressive episodes. Different types of humor play varying roles in well-being; affiliative and self-enhancing humor are associated with better self-esteem, positive affect, and social competency, while aggressive and self-defeating humor are linked to higher anxiety and depression. Furthermore, humor is not only beneficial for mental health but also impacts physical health by boosting the immune system, improving cardiovascular health, and reducing heart rates, blood pressure, and muscular tension. So, cultivating the right kind of humor can be seen as an investment in overall well-being, offering both mental and physical health benefits.
Humor as a Defense Mechanism
We view ourselves and our lives in a certain way. When things interrupt our narrative in a negative way, we activate defense mechanisms in order to protect ourselves from feeling anxious, from feeling like our self-esteem is dropping from things that threaten our view of the world, our position of comfort inside a social group, or anything else that feels like “too much” to handle.
With time, our defense mechanisms can drain us, despite their crucial role in protecting us from external and internal conflicts. By definition, humor is the lightening of the mood through the finding of something ironic, funny, or sarcastic about a situation. It is a small pause in the larger world, a reminder that no problem is so consuming that it rules our whole world. We tend to have the bad habit of getting so consumed by our current problem that we believe that nothing else in the world matters and no one else’s problems can match ours. The rest of the world is worry-free, but we have drawn the short end of the stick and our problems are so terrible; why
have we drawn this lot in life?
Humor as a Sign of Maturation?
When we see kids cracking up in a school assembly, at church, or any other serious scenario, we tend to wonder when they’re going to grow up and take things seriously. The truth of the matter is that those children are practicing a very important life skill, the ability to see humor in situations trend towards being unfavorable is a clear-cut sign not only of maturation, but of the ability to be flexible and understand that life is not always going go our way, but must be dealt with on a day-to-day basis with optimism and the ability to rise above new stressors and the danger of reacting in a way to stressors that make the situation even worse than it already is. It should come as no surprise that both men and women list a sense of humor as something they look for in a romantic companion. The physical beauty of youth fades over time and even the most lucrative of careers ends in retirement at some point. But the ability to see humor in a situation and make someone else laugh, particularly when life puts us in uncomfortable situations, is a great gift that can be a binding factor in a relationship. Being able to laugh at ourselves, the situations we face, and the world around us, suggests the realization that nothing in life is guaranteed, that we don’t have much control over the events around us, and that while life will have bumps along the road, we are capable of rising above them by staying positive and not taking ourselves too seriously.
3 Positive Effects Humor Can Have on Your Life
We are constantly growing and striving to improve ourselves throughout our life journey. If you have never used humor as a defense mechanism, that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Because like most positives in our lives, humor has more than one advantage when used as a regular practice. These include:
Increase your Likeability Around Others
Have you ever had a boss that always seemed grouchy and grumpy? Have you ever realized that your coworkers, friends, family, or other social circles might think you’re that way too? When you can make light of stressful situations, and particularly when you can laugh at yourself, you are
communicating to others that you don’t take life, yourself, or the day-to-day of life too seriously. This is a great to start new relationships or strengthen existing ones.
Increase your Ability to Problem Solve
Have you ever had to convince a toddler that eating peas or carrots or some other non-appealing vegetable is the greatest idea of all time? When the spoon doesn’t work, we go for the big laughs to get them to open wide – the ‘airplane flying into the hangar’ bit or the ‘T-Rex munching on the lesser dinosaurs’ routine. Humor can work as a problem solver because when you
feel like you’re in an impossible situation, that first irreverent solution that passes through your brain is the equivalent to breaking the dam of frustration. You wrecked your car and can’t pay to have it fixed right now, and your sense of humor floats the madcap idea of just living and sleeping at your office until you can save up enough money to get it repaired. That’s laughable, but it eventually leads to you coming up with a plan where you work remotely three days a week and take a carpool with coworkers the other two so that you stay productive and work around the problem.
Improve your Self-Esteem
It’s easy to reach a point in life where we take ourselves and our reputation so seriously that we can’t stand it if even the slightest dent in our reputation happens. When things don’t go our way, we either fly off the handle towards others or wallow in pity, a pair of emotional states that are a terrible waste of our time that only perpetuate our negative state. Laughing at ourselves when we make a mistake, slip up, or generally screw things up royally reminds us that we are human, we are prone to mistakes, and all of that is completely OK. If we did everything perfectly the first time we tried it, life would be boring and unfulfilling.
We were made to laugh! Seeing the humor in things isn’t just reserved for circus clowns and standup comedians. It is a necessary component of maintaining a healthy view of ourselves and the world around us and being able to handle the stressors that invariably crop up over the course of our day, week, month, year, and lifetime. Laughter is not just a great medicine, it’s an essential part of a healthy life, a life worth living for….